June 13, 2016 |
ELMONT, N.Y. - Irad Ortiz Jr. was already among America's best young jockeys. His ride in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday won't do anything but cement that position and perhaps put him in the conversation for best of any age. Riding 16-1 Creator for the first time after the Arkansas Derby winner finished 13th in the Kentucky Derby, Ortiz quickly got the colt to the rail from his extreme outside-post position in the 13-horse field. He patiently moved the horse from 10th on the backstretch to sixth by the quarter pole.
June 12, 2016 |
THIRTEEN RACES, almost $8 million in purses, nine graded stakes (six Grade I), stretching over 8 1/2 hours Saturday at Belmont Park. It will be America's best racing card this year outside Breeders' Cup Saturday at Santa Anita. When the New York Racing Association management decided to bundle several of its historic stakes on one card three years ago, a mini Breeders' Cup is precisely what organizers had in mind for Belmont Stakes Day. It was great racing in 2014 and 2015, but largely overshadowed by the anticipation of potential Triple Crown runs by California Chrome and American Pharoah.
May 10, 2016 |
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - It was 100 minutes after Nyquist had crossed the Kentucky Derby finish line alone when the lights went out in the Derby museum Saturday night, Doug O'Neill put his right arm around wife, Linette, and everybody in the crowd looked up at the 360-degree screen to watch The Greatest Race. This was the wonderful Day at the Derby film re-imagined from darkness to light and back to darkness with fresh video from the 2015 Derby interspersed with highlights of the original film.
September 18, 2015 |
TWO WEEKS AGO, Sam Elliott, the director of racing at Parx, got a text from Bob Baffert saying "get ready. " Before he began to hyperventilate, Elliott read the rest of the message and then called Baffert. It would really help, Baffert said, if the Pennsylvania Derby could be moved to Sept. 26. In any other year, the Pa. Derby probably would have been scheduled for Sept. 26 anyway. This was not any year, not with Pope Francis coming to town that day. Imagine. The Triple Crown winner this Saturday, the pope next Saturday.
August 3, 2015 |
American Pharoah's ending up at the Jersey Shore this weekend? No great surprise. His owner is from New Jersey, and his trainer has won this particular race so often they may eventually have to rename it the Baffert Invitational. For now it's still the Haskell, annually one of horse racing's most important summer stops, and Oceanport will be the center of the racing world again on Sunday. They're predicting up to 60,000 will invade Monmouth Park Racetrack to watch the Triple Crown winner in his first race after his historic Belmont Stakes triumph.
June 9, 2015 |
ELMONT, N.Y. - Racetrack lifers, those who knew Bob Baffert well enough to wander inside Barn 1 at Belmont Park, congregated in a corner as American Pharoah walked around the shed row. One guy held Baffert's coffee while the trainer signed a Belmont Stakes program for him. Out on Hempstead Turnpike, just over a fence, traffic spilled by, past a Wendy's and a Subway across the street, which seemed a world away. Inside the fence, there was an air of contentment. Why would the glow wear off?
May 17, 2015 |
BALTIMORE - The Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes may be more glamorous, but it's the Preakness alone that can transform three distinct races into a Triple Crown. When Derby winners falter at Pimlico, the anticipation and curiosity that animate the three races disappears. Whatever happened at Churchill Downs two weeks earlier fades from memory. And June's climactic Belmont is instead anticlimactic. So, in addition to jockey Victor Espinoza, American Pharoah will carry that burden for the troubled sport late Saturday afternoon when he heads a bifurcated field of eight 3-year-olds in the 140th Preakness.
May 5, 2015 |
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - His two Kentucky Derby horses had been off the track and back in their stalls for an hour Wednesday morning. The day's work was done, but Bob Baffert was not inclined to leave, so the Hall of Fame trainer held court for a good hour. Even as the listeners dissipated to just a handful, Baffert kept talking, with or without questions. He was reliving his training life generally, his Derby life specifically - Cavonnier's nose loss in 1996 when he was sure he would never get another chance, the three wins in six years from 1997 to 2002, the terrible disappointment with Point Given in 2001.
May 1, 2015 |
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - If you do not have a betting interest in Saturday's Kentucky Derby, root for International Star. With 20 horses come 20 stories about the people who are around the horse. None is better than the story of Ken and Sarah Ramsey, the husband and wife team for 57 years who decided late in life to chase a horse racing dream and have beaten the odds in every way but one. The Ramseys grew up in Artemus, Ky. (pop. 500), down in the southeastern part of the state. Ken was a truck driver, which he parlayed into owning a trucking company followed by a real estate business and a bunch of cell towers.
May 19, 2014 |
Each spring at Triple Crown time, when thoroughbred racing briefly flowers on the American sports landscape like an exquisite azalea, I think of Joe Bummer. His actual name escapes me these four-plus decades later, but I'm certain it couldn't have described him any better than the nickname my friends and I gave him. (The actual name we called him was a Yiddish word for perennial dissatisfaction, but after 40-some years I can neither pronounce nor recall it.) Joe was a railbird at Garden State Park and Brandywine Raceway.